Actually, now the final numbers are in, make that a multi-year loss for the league and the Comcast-owned network.
With just 18.94 million viewers tuning in to watch the big game on NBC on September 13, SNF is down 15% from the 2019 opener of the flagship NFL show.
In fact, with no fans in the seats at the Rams’ high-tech stadium due to coronavirus safety protocols, the kickoff for SNF’s 2020-2021 season is at least a decade linear viewership low, according to Nielsen. The 6.2/33 rating the game drew among adults 18-49 easily won the night, but was also down double digits from early years.
Still, don’t sound the gridiron alarm yet.
Even with two teams with big national fanbases on the field, SNF’s waning result may not be indicative of another season of declining fan interest. There was a stark contrast from NBC’s primetime SNF to Fox’s broadcast earlier that same day of the match-up between Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the winning New Orleans Saints and QB Drew Brees.
Billed as a Battle of GOATs, that afternoon game snared a whooping audience of 25.9 million, an 8% bump from the comparative showdown of 2019.
BTW – When digital platform numbers are added in, SNF moved up to 19.5 million viewers.
PREVIOUSLY, SEPT 14, 8:19 AM: SoFi Stadium was devoid of fans on last night’s Sunday Night Football due to the coronavirus pandemic, but full of victory for the hometown Los Angeles Rams. Sadly, that winning feeling wasn’t reflected in the ratings for NBC and the NFL in SNF‘s season opener.
The team’s first game at its sparkling new $5 billion digs saw the Rams take down the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 in a grinding battle in which Rams running back Malcolm Brown score two touchdowns. Fighting right to the end against that wall of the Rams’ defense in a rough and tumble showdown, the Cowboys early on also saw starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch exit with a collarbone injury. All in all, not a good start for Mike McCarthey’s first game as the Cowboys’ coach.
With all that on-field action, and coming off disappointing ratings of the NFL season kickoff on September 10, the league and the Comcast-owned network were looking for a win themselves this football packed weekend.
Even with the usual ratings gold of Jerry Jones’ team on the field, the NFL and NBC didn’t get that win – at least not in the early numbers. Despite two teams with big national followings, SNF snared a 4.7 in early ratings among adults 18-49 and 14.81 million viewers last night.
In numbers certain to change, that’s a fall of 28% in the demo and a hard decline of 23% in sets of eyeballs from the early numbers of the the September 8, 2019 SNF season debut. While the early Nielsen data lacks West Coast numbers — kind of important when you have a team from the Los Angeles market in the mix — his result is going to be hard pill for the NFL and NBC to swallow.
To add further context, last year’s opener, a 33-3 pummeling of the Pittsburgh Steelers by then reigning Super Bowl champs the New England Patriots, went on to pull in an audience of 22.2 million on NBC, which was pretty much even with SNF’s 2018 season premiere. That 2019 figure inched up to 22.7 million when digital platform viewing was added in.
At this point, last night’s SNF is down nearly 10% in both the key demo and in viewers from the early results of the the Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Houston Texans in the league’s season opener Thursday night.
Down double digits from its 2019 equivalent, that primetime game at Arrowhead Stadium did have a scattering of fans (just over 17,000 in a venue built for more than 76,000) and strong social justice and anti-racism messages from the league and players – which was tragically booed by said fans. In what may be indicative of where the Roger Goodell-led NFL is already drifting, last night’s SNF was much more subdued in its stance over such issues and saw only a few players take a knee during the national anthem.
Up against NBA and NHL playoffs, Thursday’s Chiefs-Texans game jumped up to an audience of 19.3 million on NBC in adjusted numbers, a figure that grew to 20.3 million when near-record digital platform viewership was factored in.
Having said that, the sun still isn’t shining here in LA due to the wildfires ravaging the Golden State, but we go a bit of a glow Sunday.
This one's for you, Los Angeles!
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 14, 2020
Even with SNF down, NBC will have no problem winning the night. The rest of Sunday’s primetime included 60 Minutes‘ exclusive sit-down with Bob Woodward on his new Trump book, and Fox’s NFL postgame show The O.T. (4.5, 1.47M) scoring a high in the demo, though it will likely be adjusted in finals. The latter led into sneak peek of the upcoming season of The Masked Singer (1.3, 4.68M) and a preview of the network’s 2020 fall lineup (0.6, 2.05M).
On CBS, 60 Minutes (0.9, 7.71M) returned with that Rage-filled new episode, while Big Brother (1.0, 4.40M) got a two-tenths boost from last week and hit a season high in viewers. Meanwhile, Sunday’s edition of Love Island (0.5, 1.82M) climbed a tenth in the demo and scored its second-largest viewership of the season.
The CW’s Fridge Wars (0.1, 310,000) was also in originals, steady with a week ago.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.